Brendan O’Reilly Interview – July 2014

Fight News Australia caught up with TUF: Nations welterweight Brendan O’Reilly as he prepares for his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs Le, on Aug. 23 in Macau, China. The 27 year-old Brisbane based fighter will make the cut to lightweight for the event, where he is set to take on hometown favourite, and TUF: China winner, Zhang Lipeng.

Fight News Australia: Hi Brendan, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions mate and congratulations on the recent news. What have you been up to since TUF Nations concluded?

Brendan O’Reilly: Since the show concluded I’ve been focusing on developing as a martial artists, improving my skills in all areas, and also building the awesome culture at my gym Gamebred Combat Club, with the help of my business partner.

I also have the blueprints to build a life-sized Viking long-ship in my backyard, although this will have to wait until I earn a fight of the night bonus.

Fight News Australia: What was the process for you signing with the UFC and how did you react when you got the news?

Brendan O’Reilly: The UFC were aware of my willingness to fight anybody on their roster, and I think my work ethic during my time on TUF Nations proved that I walk the walk. I don’t fight for attention or fame, I fight because I love it, and I strive to constantly improve as a martial artists. I’m passionate about seeing the sport of MMA become widely accepted worldwide, and I think the UFC appreciate all these things together. 

I was obviously extremely happy when I got the news, but it’s business as usual for me; training hard, training smart. Although the UFC is seen by many as the pinnacle of the sport, at the end of the day it’s like any other fight, and I never let big occasions overwhelm me. I’m excited for the opportunity.

Fight News Australia: Obviously both opportunities are huge in their own ways for a fighter, but how does signing with the UFC compare to being selected for TUF Nations?

Brendan O’Reilly: Both were a great honour, and I believe both were big steps in my career, although in vastly different ways. The TUF experience is not necessarily like a regular fight, where you often have quite a lot of notice, and know who your opponent will be. However what TUF did enable me to do, is display my work ethic, dedication, and never say die attitude. It allowed a huge audience across the world to understand me a bit more personally, and I have developed a strong fan-base from that.

Being signed by the UFC means it’s time to display my skill and heart to the world. I think both have been, and will be important steps in my fighting career, and I’m extremely grateful for both opportunities.  

Fight News Australia: You missed out on a spot in the finale show which took place just over two months ago now, were you campaigning behind the scenes to get a place on that card or was it just a matter of waiting for the UFC to call?

Brendan O’Reilly: I didn’t necessarily campaign, but I feel that what I did in every training session, every day in the TUF house did the talking for  me. I’m not a talker, I’m a do’er . I let my actions in there do my campaigning, and the UFC knows that every time the Badger steps in the octagon I will put it all on the line, regardless of circumstances.

Fight News Australia: What are your thoughts on your opponent Zhang Lipeng, have you had a chance to sit down and go over some of his fights?

Brendan O’Reilly: Yes, myself and my coaching staff have obviously done our research. I think he’s a tough guy, who wont shy away from a fight. Nor am I, which means that fight fans are in for a treat on fight night! 

Fight News Australia: Will this be your first trip to China and how do you feel about fighting him in enemy territory?

Brendan O’Reilly: Yes, this will be my first trip to China. I don’t mind fighting on enemy territory, in fact, I don’t mind fighting anywhere, in any environment. So travelling to Zhang’s home turf for this fight won’t bother me at all. 

Fight News Australia: With the majority of your career spent fighting in the welterweight division, is lightweight where you can see yourself for the foreseeable future?

Brendan O’Reilly: Yes, I’m a natural lightweight, my body frame is most suited to the 155 lb division. I’m naturally strong, and believe I’m quote strong even among welterweights, however for long term success I’m best to campaign in the lightweight division. 

Fight News Australia: We’re seeing more and more TUF guys who don’t necessarily make it to the final get UFC call ups, yourself of course, Richie Walsh, Vik Grujic, Jake Matthews and Chris Indich all received the call following this series. Who else from the Australian team would you like to see get a shot in the UFC?

Brendan O’Reilly: Yes, it’s great to see these guys having success in the UFC, there’s definitely great talent in Australian MMA. Well I think the world deserves to see Daniel Kelly in the octagon. He was a workhorse on the show, and his unfortunate injury meant we didn’t get to see the best of him. Although he doesn’t like my angelic singing, and is an absolute tyrant in the kitchen, it would be great to see Dan in the UFC.

Also Tyler Manawaroa has some amazing talent. I know there was controversy following the show which meant we didn’t see Tyler continue with the UFC, but based purely on fighting ability and raw talent, he is truly unique. 

Fight News Australia: What about Australian fighters in general who you think deserve to be in the UFC?

Brendan O’Reilly: Australian welterweight Anton Zafir is one guy I can certainly see making a name for himself in the UFC. He is dedicated, tough and will fight anybody. What’s more is he’s a great ambassador for the sport. Anton runs his own gym in a regional town away from any major cities, and is in my opinion the top Australian welterweight not signed to the UFC. 

Fight News Australia: Thoughts on the Tyler Manawaroa situation?

Brendan O’Reilly: I think that’s a complex situation. We, as professional athletes have to act as such, however you have to consider when the controversial image was posted. It was far before Tyler was involved with the organisation, and perhaps before he was looking at this as his career path. I understand the UFC must protect their reputation, and I think the entire incident is just unfortunate. I can absolutely understand how those who don’t know Tyler would be offended by what was posted. I also know that he would not have meant it to be interpreted this way. I’m a stand up guy, and would be the first to speak out against racism, so I believe for me to put my reputation on the line to back Tyler up on this speaks for itself. I guess when you go from being an every-day teenager to a well known professional athlete overnight, you have to immediately understand there’s new responsibilities and standards.

Everything happens for a reason, perhaps this had to happen to help Tyler decide on which career path to take. If he decides to focus on his fighting as a career, I know he will be a household name. Talent like his is so rare.

Fight News Australia: You also tried out for TUF Smashes back in 2012 and no doubt have a fair bit of experience with the whole process, what advice would you give someone who was going to tryout for the reality series?

Brendan O’Reilly: To be honest, my best advice would be just continue to focus on improving as a martial artist each day. You need to be prepared for what comes afterwards if you are successful, so train smart, and have an open mind to improve. As far as the tryouts go, just be yourself. Show them who you really are, because at the end of the day, cameras will be on you 24/7. The world will find out who you really are, so be real.

Fight News Australia: What’s a typical day like for you at this point in time, being a co-owner and the head coach over at the Gamebred gym in Brisbane, and how will that change as we get closer to Aug. 23 (fight camp etc)?

Brendan O’Reilly: Days are busy but fun, and I make sure I appreciate all the great opportunities I have, and the people that help me. My time is divided between my own training (striking, wrestling, conditioning etc), and coaching at Gamebred Combat Club. As the fight draws closer, my awesome helpers around the gym will pick up a little more responsibility. 

Fight News Australia: Who are some up and coming Gamebred prospects that people should keep an eye out for?

Brendan O’Reilly: There’s a lot of talent developing down at Gamebred Combat Club! I believe we have one of the strongest group of female fighters in the country, which is awesome. Per capita, the Gamebred chicks are way scarier than us blokes! It’s hard to name any individuals, as there’s such broad talent in various areas of the game, however I would like to make mention of Clint Dixon. He’s about to have his first amateur fight, and is looking great. When he first walked into the gym, he couldn’t punch his way out of a wet paper bag, and through daily grind and pure hard work he has developed his skills to a level where he is now a valuable member of the Gamebred fight team. This is why I love owning a gym and coaching. It’s not about seeing the guys with all the natural talent in the world, its about seeing the guys who know how bad they want it, and refuse to give up. All in all though, I’m astounded by the talent and dedication of all my students, even those with no plans of fighting. We train hard, but have fun in a happy environment; the energy is really amazing.

Fight News Australia: Which local and international fighters do you like watching fight?

Brendan O’Reilly: Locally there’s too many to name. I love attending local fight shows and seeing impressive talent. I think in many areas, Australian fighters really are better than we’re given credit for. As far as international fighters, I love watching Donald Cerrone, as his attitude is like mine when I fist got involved in MMA. I’ve tried to reign it in again now, but just before getting the call from the UFC, I was about to get back in to bronc riding and get back to the good old days. His skill is awesome, I’ve followed him since his WEC days.

I love watching Gil Melendez for his intensity and pressure, and of course GSP was a great fighter to watch when looking at the effectiveness of tactics. As far as entertainment goes, a Nick Diaz fight is always good, I’m always waiting for a rogue slap and some trash talk.

Fight News Australia: And finally, do you have any short and long term goals?

Brendan O’Reilly: Yes, short term I’m going to have success in the UFC, and that goal also extends to mid and long term. I intend on having a long and fruitful career.  I also aim to continue building Gamebred Combat Club as one of Australia’s most successful gyms, and eventually well known and respected worldwide. 

Finally I’m going to get married to my soul-mate, buy a farm, and spend the rest of my days fishing for yabbies in the creek and teaching my kids to ride horses. I’ll possibly get around to building that Viking longship, too……..

Fight News Australia: Thanks again for your time Brendan and all the best for your UFC debut, is there anyone you would like to thank?

Brendan O’Reilly: I would like to thank everybody at Gamebred Combat Club in Brisbane, for helping me out in so many ways. My striking coaches Fred Capes and Jesse Priaulx. My BJJ coach, Bruno Lemos from Alliance BJJ Brisbane. Renee at Renovate PT for sorting out my nutrition. Jared Thomlinson and Evan Donaldson for taking control of my strength and conditioning for this camp, and making sure I’m improving the one percents that make a big difference.

I’d like to also thank my sponsors Sports Master (SMAI), Mass Nutrition Chermside, Muscle Connections, Mama’s Boy Apparel, Elite Body Management Physiotherapy, and Shogun apparel.

Finally I want to thank all the fans that are behind me. Your support means a lot, and I love you all being on this journey with me. TEAM BADGER!

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